If you’re an avid museum-goer, Indianapolis offers an interesting and eclectic group of different venues to get cultured, whatever your age or interests.
Not just for youngsters only, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is the largest facility of its kind in the world; anchored by a massive water clock and towering Chihuly glass sculpture, it's packed with five floors of interactive, educational fun. Life-sized dinosaurs bust through the museum’s outer shell, making quite a first impression and psyching visitors up to discover the Dinosphere area inside. Other sections highlight archaeology, space exploration, science, and global cultures. The Riley Children’s Health Sports Legends Experience joined the mix in 2018 to get kids—and parents—moving with a dozen different sports activities on miniature outdoor fields, tracks, courts, and courses for family-friendly competition.
This 152-acre campus covers all the arts bases. The Indianapolis Museum of Art galleries are home to a permanent collection of American, African, European, Asian, and Contemporary holdings, along with touring exhibitions and pop-up displays. The beautifully preserved Lilly House offers an insider peek at how one of Indy’s most prominent families lived in the 1930s, while the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park: 100 Acres dresses up green spaces, woodlands, and wetland terrain with site-specific art. A year-round schedule of community-oriented programming includes a popular summer film series, yoga classes, tours, and a flashy Winterlights holiday garden walk. Make sure to snap a selfie in front of the Robert Indiana “LOVE” sculpture, then refresh with a cold craft brew in the seasonal beer garden next to the greenhouse.
Just northeast of Indianapolis in Fishers, Indiana, Conner Prairie presents 1,000 acres of living history shared through hands-on activities, replicas of 19th-century buildings, live animal encounters, and stories from costumed interpreters. The 1836 Prairietown village, the 1863 Civil War Journey, and a Lenape Indian Camp take guests back in time to discover the historical origins of the Hoosier state; the Treetop Adventure play area gives kiddos a chance to burn off excess energy as they learn something about local ecology. In the summer months, Symphony on the Prairie takes over the outdoor bandshell on weekends for musical performances and picnics under the stars. Or, rise above it all with a ride on the 1859 Balloon Voyage, a tethered hot air balloon adventure that soars more than 370 feet into the Indiana sky.
Part of the world’s most famous racetrack, Circle City visitors with a need for speed can indulge in racing nostalgia at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum. Here, fans can take a deep dive into auto racing history by marveling at the legendary Borg-Warner Trophy and Indy 500-winning cars, with accompanying info on the drivers who piloted them to victory. While you’re there, sign up for a narrated tour of the speedway, complete with a bus lap around the 2.5-mile track and an opportunity to emulate race winners by kissing the yard of bricks that marks the start/finish line.
Cutting a dashing figure on the downtown Indianapolis Canal, the handsome Indiana State Museum rolls out a warm Hoosier welcome before guests even enter the facility. The limestone façade incorporates small-scale carvings and sculptures to represent all 92 Indiana counties, setting the stage for a fun scavenger hunt à la "Where's Waldo?" Inside, the airy atrium ushers guests into galleries across several floors filled with Indiana-centric permanent displays, temporary and touring exhibitions, and a larger-than-life IMAX theater.
Next door to the Indiana State Museum, the Eiteljorg Museum is the only museum of its kind in the Midwest, delivering an absorbing Wild West experience filled with stunning Native American art, culture, food, and shopping. For even more enticement, the Eiteljorg hosts an annual Indian Market and Festival and a summer concert series. The beloved local attraction is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2019 with a year-long schedule of dedicated programming.
A White River State Park fixture, the NCAA Hall of Champions fetes male and female student athletes across 24 college sports with interactive simulators, educational exhibits, and historic artifacts on display. Visitors are welcome—in fact, encouraged—to take a break from touring and shoot a few hoops in the recreated 1930s-era half court on the second floor.
On the site of the former Central State Hospital, the Indiana Medical History Museum isn’t for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. But anyone with an interest in modern medicine and psychiatric history is likely to be intrigued by jars of human brains and other pathology specimens on display, laboratories to tour, and an autopsy room to check out.
In lasting tribute to the Indianapolis native author, the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library showcase photos, original doodles, and drawings by Vonnegut, the actual typewriter he used to compose his novels, and first editions of his works. So it goes... so it goes.
With the exception of Washington, D.C., Indianapolis devotes more green space to honoring our soldiers and veterans than any other American city. The 30,000-square-foot Indiana War Memorial Museum in the Indiana War Memorial Plaza Historic District is part of a moving collection of monuments and memorials, respectfully detailing the service of Hoosier men and women from the Revolutionary War all the way through to modern-day conflicts. Military equipment and artifacts are here to observe and appreciate.